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Spotify wants to suggest songs based on your emotions

By Mark Savage

BBC music reporter

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionSpotify says its patent will allow more accurate music recommendations

Spotify has patented technology that will allow it to analyse your voice and suggest songs based on your “emotional state, gender, age, or accent”.

The patent, which was filed in 2018 and granted on 12 January, would allow the streaming giant to “make observations” about a user’s environment and emotions using speech recognition technology.

Spotify could then play music reflecting their mood or even their social setting – “e.g. alone, small group, party,” according to the patent.

If implemented, the feature will presumably boost the streaming statistics for Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To).

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“It is common for a media streaming application to include features that provide personalized media recommendations to a user,” explained Spotify in its application.

However, it continued, the current approach for discerning a user’s tastes is unsatisfactory, because it requires them “to tediously input answers to multiple queries” about their age, gender and favourite bands.

Karaoke feature

The patent suggests that speech recognition could be used to gather information about age and gender, while contextual cues such as “intonation, stress, [and] rhythm” would provide clues as to whether a user was “happy, angry, sad or neutral”.

“It should be understood that the above example metadata categories of emotions, gender, age and accent are merely examples, and numerous other characterizations and classifications can be used,” it said in the filing.

The results would be combined with other information – including a user’s previously-played songs, and their friends’ taste in music – to improve recommendations.

image copyrightUS Patent Office

image captionThe filing shows how speech recognition could be used to influence your playlists

image copyrightUS Patent Office

image captionSpeech recognition would be one of several factors taken into consideration

The technology is one of several technical innovations that Spotify has patented over the last year.

In September, it patented a karaoke-like feature that allows people to “overlay a music track with their own vocals”. And earlier this week, it gained permission for a “cadence-based media content selection engine” – which matches the tempo of your music to your running speed.

“Those who scored high in conscientiousness tended to concentrate their listening to a more narrow window of time of day,” concluded Spotify’s Research and Development team.

“Self-assessed introverts, on the other hand, tended to dig deeper into an artist’s catalogue, listening to more tracks for each artist they discovered.”

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionSpotify is the world’s biggest audio streaming service, with 320m users, including 144m subscribers

The streaming service, which has 320m global users, has been granted a patent that would allow it to use such insights to promote content – including music, podcasts and advertising – that has been tweaked to appeal to a listener’s personality.

“In some embodiments in which the personalized content includes one or more messages with audio components,” explains the patent, “the electronic device changes a tone of voice for messages for presentation to the user.”

“For example, the tone of voice may be more upbeat, high-pitched and/or exciting for users that have been assigned the personality trait of extroversion.”

While such tracking technology seems dystopian, Spotify’s own researchers have cautioned against implementing it without due consideration of the ethical implications.

“We recognize that one’s digital history is extraordinarily personal and sensitive,” they wrote in their paper. “As such it must be treated with proper consideration of the conceivable misuses… from its access.

“We disavow any future research or applications that violate ethical standards of data usage and are not transparent about privacy to its users”

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